ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — A suggestion has been made for the works of Grenadian calypsonian, Mighty Sparrow, to be included in the school curriculum.
“It is about time that his compositions find their rightful place in the academic arena,” educator Jeanette Dubois said on Monday at a ceremony honouring Sparrow.
Sparrow was born July 9, 1935, in Grand Roy in Grenada’s west coast Parish of St John, and christened Slinger Francisco. He has recently been visiting Grenada, where he performed last Saturday in what was described as his “Farewell Tribute Concert”.
As part of the visit, spearheaded by local businessman, Hugh Dolland, Sparrow was publicly recognized by residents of Grand Roy at Monday’s ceremony. It included a cultural show, as well as the unveiling of both a plaque honouring Sparrow and a roadside wall bearing the portrait of the 77-year-old musician who is regarded as the “Calypso King of the World.”
As a one-year-old, Sparrow was taken to Trinidad where he established his illustrious musical career. He has won the Calypso Monarch and Road March titles of Trinidad and Tobago almost 20 times. His first victory was in 1956. In that year, he won both the Calypso Monarch and Road March with his song, “Jean and Dinah”.
In his professional career spanning almost 60 years, he has sung on a wide array of topics, often collaborating with master songwriter, Winsford “Joker” Devine. Their collaboration is documented in the book, The Progress of Winsford Devine. Sparrow’s songs have covered topics such as love; infidelity; politics; drunkenness and alcoholism; the monarchy; and the plight of young female migrants.
Among his compositions are; Good Morning Mr Walker, Sa Sa Yea; Obeah Wedding; Drunk and Disorderly; Federation; Idi Amin; Congo Man; May May; Doh Back Back; Carnival Boycott; Theresa; Pay As You Earn; Dan is the Man in the Van; Village Ram; Melda; We Like It So; and Soca Pressure.
“Sparrow is the ultimate storyteller,” Dubois said on Monday at the Grand Roy event that was attended by scores of St John residents including Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean; Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Dr George Vincent; and former Senator Arley Gill, who once served as Culture Minister.
The governor general congratulated Sparrow for writing Grenada’s name “boldly on the world.” Sir Carlyle also commended him on his “achievements and contribution to music, particularly calypso.” Vincent welcomed Sparrow “home,” and recalled listening to the calypsonian’s use of French patois in many of his songs.
The minister disclosed that his father was a big Sparrow fan, who collected and played his music at home. Vincent said the songs were his “introduction” to learning patois, and also helped him to “develop a love for literature.”
According to Vincent, Grenadians ought to “go back to learning the basics of patois.”
Sparrow, in brief remarks, expressed appreciation for the honour bestowed on him in his birthplace. “This is beyond my expectations. This is stupendous,” said Sparrow, who holds the title of a Grenada Cultural Ambassador.
Over his career, Sparrow – also called “The Birdie” – has received numerous awards. They have included awards from the Trinidad and Tobago government and the Caribbean Community; as well as an honourary doctorate from the University of the West Indies. By Lincoln Depradine